May Pottage

May Pottage

This post completes the year of pottage. I had planned to stop here anyway, but I can’t get dried peas in the supermarket any longer and, having discovered that I’m allergic to raw peas (probably), I don’t want to grow my own. Most of the fun in growing peas is opening a pod in the garden and eating the contents still warm from the sun.  It’s not worth a swollen face, though. Without dried peas to add flavour during the winter months, pottage would be very bland.

We’re very much in the thin time of the year in May. There’s nothing in my garden to be eaten except herbs. I have lots of blood sorrel, parsley, chives and sage. They’re all very tasty, but I wouldn’t want to have to live on them. There are also dandelion leaves, if you let them grow, which I don’t.

So, what did my fourteenth-century housewife cook in May? Towards the end of the month, peas might be available. Lettuce is coming up. Spinach is another possibility, although mine is only a couple of inches tall. In some parts of the country you might be able to pick beetroot by now, but mine has only just germinated. If I grew them, radishes would be worth eating, but I wouldn’t want to make a pottage with them.

In the end I decided to use spring greens, as I did last month. Someone pointed out recently that I haven’t used mushrooms in a pottage, so I put some in this one. They wouldn’t be at their best at this time of year in the fourteenth century, but they would have been available. I have managed to grow a few mushrooms, but I suspect the medieval housewife would have gathered them from the wild. I bought mine from the supermarket.

I cut up the spring greens and put them in a large pot with a bit of water. Then I added parsley and chives from the garden to give it a bit more taste. Once the spring greens had wilted, I added the quartered mushrooms. It probably would have been better if I’d sliced them.

I have to confess that this pottage was not a great success. The mushrooms were fine, but the spring greens were very chewy. It was edible, but it would not have provided much nourishment.

It’s been an interesting experiment over the last twelve months. Although a lot of what I ate was tasty, I think it would be very monotonous for a modern person not used to being restricted to what was available at a particular time of the year. My fourteenth-century housewife would not have dreamt that food could be available out of season, but might still have felt that she couldn’t face another cabbage by this time of the year.


April Munday is the author of the Soldiers of Fortune and Regency Spies series of novels, as well as standalone novels set in the fourteenth century.

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Filed under Fourteenth Century, Medieval Food

42 responses to “May Pottage

  1. I am sorry you fear you are allergic to raw peas, I absolutely agree with you about the joy of picking and eating peas.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’m sorry about your allergy, April. Such a shame. Not a fan of spring greens – definitely too cheewy – but my partner is so I remind myself that something so green must be good for me. I sometimes feel that shopping in a supermarket is a bit like entering into the wild, particularly on a Friday evening.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Losing the Plot

    Well done on achieving a full year, that’s good going. With a good pair of gloves you could add nettles at this time of year, I believe this is when they are at their best. I haven’t tried them myself but there are loads of recipes for nettle soup kicking about – if you fancy a last hurrah?

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I wonder whether it would have been thought a bland diet back then. Our ancestors lived on a vastly more restricted diet than we did, and I doubt there was any expectation of anything else. It’s what you’re used to, after all.

    But a hugely interesting year’s post.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. This has been an interesting series April, shame about the allergy though!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. lydiaschoch

    I’m glad you figured out what was causing your face to swell up! I’ve never met anyone who had a pea allergy before. Are you allergic to any other members of the Fabaceae family like peanuts, soybeans, etc?

    I’m asking because I have a milk allergy and a soy intolerance. Apparently, it’s pretty common for people who have trouble with one of those foods to also have issues with the other.

    Congratulations on finishing out this series at any rate. It was super interesting to see what the average person ate in any given month.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This has been an interesting series, and well done. I would eat the dandelion leaves, but usually in a salad.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Way to check this series off your bucket list! I must say, I do get sad when things go out of season in the supermarket, especially fruits like cuties. But it makes me appreciate them more!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh, April I am going to miss your monthly pottage. I have so enjoyed your forays into the garden and the market. It’s a shame about the peas, but I agree, better safe than sorry. Congratulation on a wonderful series. 👍😊

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Shaunn

    For some reason the system will not let me “like” comments. Anyway, I like them all!

    Can’t help but think they had some kind of roots overwintered for spring eating. Careful serfs with an eye for the future would have put in late root crops for this purpose.

    I’m sure they were very good at gathering edibles we’d never even consider,
    and taste would be secondary to survival. The uninformed would probably risk intestinal ailments, sickness, & even death. Wise old folks were crucial for survival. Think how the Black Death must have wiped out many of these important sources of folk ways!

    When the English first colonized the Americas, they did well if they befriended First Americans. Those who did not starved, ate unknown plants, & frequently died. It pays to know what edibles the land offered!

    Also think they made use of netted birds and raided their nests. Birds & eggs would provide much-needed protein.

    BUT! They survived and spawned us! We are living testaments to their perseverance. Thank you April, for reminding us how hard it was for them to make our lives possible, and that we should remember our ancestors with honor.

    A perfect way to usher in the American Memorial Day! ♥


    • I’m afraid you’re having all kinds of problems. Your comment went to spam.

      I was thinking about other things that people ate when I was in Somerset a couple of weeks ago. On the other side of the lane to the cottage we rented for the weekend was a hedge of hazel. The nuts won’t be ripe for months, but it reminded me that there were lots of foodstuffs available that didn’t go into the pot. Hazelnuts are a good source of carbohydrates and protein, so very useful to the fourteenth-century housewife. Others have mentioned nettles and dandelions, but all kinds of things would have been eaten that we wouldn’t even look at these days.


  11. This has been an interesting series. I eat a lot of “pottage” in the winter months, but mine are thick soups/vegetable stews with legumes and seasonal veg that weren’t available back then. They make the “pottage” a meal in itself, but where bread is the staple food wouldn’t pottage – however sparse – have been a filling way of flavouring bread?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A big hurrah to you April for seeing through the year and creating dishes from an era you love to research. It has been interesting following your journey. I wonder what you will find next to create? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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